In 2010, a Spanish citizen presented a complaint against a Spanish newspaper, Google Spain and Google Inc. asking for the removal of search results containing information about his life. More concretely, the Google search engine was retrieving results regarding an auction notice of his repossessed home, which had been resolved many years before, hence violating his privacy rights. The Spanish court referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. On May 13th, 2014, the EU court defined the Right to be Forgotten (hereafter denoted as RTBF) as follows :
“Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them. This applies where the information is inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive for the purposes of the data processing.”
At the same time, the EU Court did not elevate the RTBF to a “super right” trumping other fundamental rights, such as the freedom of expression or the freedom of the media . However, the EU ruling was enough to lead Google into creating an online form for EU citizens, which allows for the removal of links containing inaccurate information as described in the definition of RTBF .
This report is organized as follows: The 1st section presents the attitude of many countries against the RTBF. The 2nd section adduces the survey we conducted and the respective results. The 3rd section presents a sentiment analysis on more than 13.000 tweets. Finally, we conclude in the 4th section.
1st Section: Theoretical report
Here, we aim at describing the attitude of many countries against the RTBF and try to provide a classification into supportive and opposing representatives along with countries without strict legislation for the RTBF.
The main supportive representatives of the RTBF are the EU, France, Brazil and Russia. Here, we present the attitude of the most ardent supporters.
The EU is the initiator of the RTBF and its countries are the most ardent supporters.  provides a full breakdown from requests against Google and indicates that their majority belongs to European countries.
France’s data protection authority (CNIL), imposed a fine of 100.000 Euros on Google for not removing links to articles across all Google websites for successful RTBF requests. As a compromise position, Google promised to remove all Google sites if the user who made the request was located in an EU country. The full article can be found here.
Brazilian civil legislation provides that the exercise of personal rights cannot be restricted. Thus, in any situation and if requested, facts of the past can completely disappear from the future of a man or woman. Brazil believes that certain facts can be overlooked, for the benefit of rescuing the dignity of individuals, who can get on with their lives if they are left in peace .
Russia signed a new RTBF law, which became effective in January 2016. Russians have the right to request search engines to remove links to stories generated by a search of their names in case the information violates Russian law, is false, or outdated due to later events or actions of the individual. However, requests regarding criminal activity are excluded .
The only country that is strongly against the RTBF is USA. In the US, the first amendment provides unilateral supreme protection to the freedom to expression. Since RTBF contradicts to the freedom of expression, the RTBF has a small possibility to survive in the US .
Lack of or limited legislation
Although the RTBF is active since 2014, many countries have lack of RTBF legal framework or suffer from limited legislation. Such countries are China, Australia and South Africa.
Officially, the P.R.C. is not in favor or against the RTBF. However, a Beijing court ruled in favor of Baidu in a lawsuit involving a request for the removal of search results on China’s most popular search engine, indicating that Chinese people have not yet the RTBF .
Australia does not currently have an RTBF. Recently, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) made a move in Europe’s direction, recommending that a right to deletion of personal information be inserted as an amendment to the Privacy Act as another Australian Privacy Principle. Despite that, Australia is stuck with everlasting life online .
South African law does not explicitly recognize the RTBF. However, laws dealing with privacy, access to information and freedom of speech recognize the right implicitly .
2nd Section: Survey
We conducted a survey for the RTBF that took place on the EPFL campus with 250 responses from 30 nationalities. First, we aimed at determining the public awareness on the RTBF. Then, we asked questions to find out how people think on issues regarding privacy / data protection and freedom of expression. A very important step in analyzing the results properly is to define the separation line between these two terms. Privacy / data protection is defined from the point of view of the person who is mentioned in an article, whereas the freedom of expression is defined from the point of view of the person who wrote / published the article. On one hand, if the article content has to do strictly with the personal life of somebody (e.g. murder of a family person, personal default, etc.) and at the same time, the incident described has minor impact on the society, then any request for article removal belongs to the category of privacy / data protection. On the other hand, if the incident described in the article has stronger impact on the society (e.g. children abuse, tax evasion by public officials, etc.), then the freedom of expression should be taken into account and most probably the removal request should be rejected. Finally, we asked people what information should be removed from search engines. The results are presented in Fig. 1 – 4.
Fig. 1 shows that 47% of the people who completed the survey is already aware of the RTBF, although it is a recently established right. Fig. 2 indicates that the majority believes that personal information such as age, gender, religion, marital status, political beliefs, etc should be removed from the search engines in case of any request. Fig. 3 and 4 show that requests regarding privacy and freedom of expression issues should be approved and denied respectively.
3rd Section: Sentiment Analysis
We aim at extracting the attitude and opinion of people on twitter for the RTBF, by performing a sentiment analysis on tweets. Therefore, we use the R programming language as well as the NRC Word-Emotion Association Lexicon . We collected more than 13.000 tweets and approximately 3.000 URLs (included in the tweets). We present and comment on various data mining results such as tweets by day and sentiment analysis.
In Fig. 5, we notice some peaks at the beginning and at the end of March. Regarding the first peak, Google said that it would implement changes in how it applies the so-called RTBF for online searches made in Europe, which triggered a lot of traffic on Twitter . The second peak has to do with the fact that France fined Google over the RTBF on March 24. More concretely, France accused Google for not scrubbing web search results widely enough in response to a European privacy ruling . Fig. 6 depicts a word cloud where the most frequent words used in tweets are included (the higher the frequency, the bigger the word). Fig. 7 shows the sentiment analysis of all tweets (including the text from URLs) and Fig. 8 depicts the sentiment score for eight emotions. Finally, we present representatives of negative, positive and neutral sentiments in Fig. 9-11.
Our analysis shows that several countries have adopted the RTBF, as defined by the EU, and other countries, like Russia, have implemented their own version. The country’s legislation, the data integrity (e.g. inaccurate/inadequate information) and the social position of a person play an important role in approving or denying any lodged request. Our survey indicates that the majority of people who participated are in favour of the RTBF when it comes to data protection and privacy. Also, they recognise the freedom of expression and believe that some requests for information removal should be denied. Finally, our sentiment analysis proves that people hold a neutral position against the RTBF.
Giannakopoulos Athanasios, Kyritsis Georgios, Zhang Fuzhi, Zhong Hua
 RTBF in Brazil
 RTBF in China